Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Apple cider

Public service announcement: Apple cider is really easy to make.

You need to put some apples in the blender. It helps if you wash and quarter them (weaker blenders need the quarters cut in half) but you don't need to core them. Add a little water (how much you need again depends on your blender motor) and blend until... well, until blended.)

Now you need "cheesecloth." Ideally you should use butter muslin, which is the cloth that is actually used to make cheese. The cheesecloth you can get in grocery stores is useless for separating liquids from solids. Butter muslin can be ordered from cheesemaking suppliers; you can wash and reuse it. If you don't have butter muslin, however, a non-terry towel will do.


Dump the apple goo into your cloth, over a pot. Gather the ends of the cloth and starting from the top, twist the cloth up. Add twist, moving downwards, to put pressure on the apple goo and squeeze the juice out. This doesn't take too long; a minute or two will give you a pot full of juice and a hard little puck of apple solids.

If you like fresh, tart juice you can drink this or refrigerate and use within a couple days. If you want to keep it a little longer, or if you like your juice sweeter and less crisp tasting, bring it to a boil on the stove first.

There has to be something good that you can do with those apple solids, but being insufficiently imaginative I usually just compost them.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Autumn in Lake Hughes

This year I moved to Lake Hughes just in time for the fall weather to kick in. It took me a week to get around to asking how to turn the gas furnace on, during which time I kept warm with diligent use of the wood stove. A storm came in and I had to dry wet firewood by the side of the stove before using it. The cabin gradually filled with the pleasant scent of apple woodsmoke. When the storm was over, shaggy mane mushrooms appeared in abundance; I cooked them with butter before they could turn purple, and ate them in asian dishes, with burgers, and with my boss's free-range eggs.

On saturdays through the end of october, I drove down to the farm and picked apples by the barrel. They've now gotten ripe enough to use in all sorts of dishes: baked apples, cobblers, cider... I want to make apple and pumpkin soup, and apple butter.

The pear tree by the side of the house dropped all its pears early due to (apparently) underwatering. I gathered the pears and ripened them with bananas. Now I have huge piles of pears cluttering the house; they're delicious straight, but I'm feeling a need to make something with them just to get them out of the way. I shouldn't have let them ripen all at once; I should have put some in the fridge to save for later in the year. Live and learn, I suppose.

Apples, pears, and peaches. Someday I'll have a kitchen table again; for now, I have fruit with every meal. Peach meatballs; duck and apples; peach and pear cobbler; pear scones; cinnamon peach soft cookies.

When all this fruit's gone, what will take its place? Probably thick winter stews, until spring brings new produce. I hope I'm still in the lakes and valleys for cherry season!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

If they'd invented feel-o-vision...

...then this post would be a lot more interesting.

I've gone to the weaver's cottage and picked up all manner of mysterious soft fuzzy balls:

* bamboo
* white lightning (80% cotton 20% linen, shockingly soft)
* blueface/alpaca
* merino/tussah (silk)
* corriedale
* mulberry silk
* silk/baby camel

They also had some amazingly soft baby alpaca that I did not get. That is for next time.

I am convinced that alpaca and high-grade merino are quite as nice as cashmere, and the only reason cashmere is so pricy is that it comes from literally the other side of the world. This is borne out by the fact that in Malaysia, cashmere is a fraction of the cost (still expensive, but not nearly as pricy as it is here - more like what alpaca costs here), while other fibers like cotton and silk are comparably priced when scaled to fit the general cost of living.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sourdough failure

Yesterday, for the first time, I had a sourdough failure. I brought the yeast out of its refrigerated hibernation, fed it, and left it out for a couple hours to wake up. I saw some bubbles and thought all was well, so I put it in the dough maker:

2 cups bread flour
1/2 cup gram flour (besan)
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 bulb garlic
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (meant to use olive oil but 'missed')
1 teaspoon sugar
pinch salt
water until dough was no longer too dry

I formed it into demi-loaves and left it overnight to rise, covered by a damp towel, but alas! In the morning it had not risen one millimeter.

Either my culture's secretly dead or it didn't like something I gave it (the besan? the garlic?) I'm inclined to think it didn't like the garlic, since garlic is supposed to be an antimicrobial. A voice in my head said "try various things to get it to rise !" because it smelled very nice, but I threw it away in case something else that didn't mind garlic had taken over.

What is OakAndSage up to?

I have been spinning for a bit over a month and a half, I think.

Current (in progress) spinning projects:

* Mixed bag wool/silk/rayon for novelty yarn. I spun about half the gallon bag into laceweight and it is awaiting plying. Ply once, do a segment of the yarn-sampler-scarf, then ply again. I'm considering socks, because it looks like it would make very warm, comfortable socks. Photo to follow.

* Merino respin. My first spinning attempt was some merino that Mothie gave me, and I totally mangled it. Although I could keep it as a record of how terribly I spun back then, it's so chunky that it's easy to pull open and treat as roving. I've spun a large quantity of actually *nice* unplied (as yet) yarn out of just a few inches of the original, and I haven't even had to discard anything. It's interesting watching the yarn get thinner and more even as I go (from 'unusable' towards 'chunky novelty yarn') and I think I'll probably save a foot or so out of the back in a notebook somewhere, if I can get around "But this is quality merino! It could make *yards* of decent yarn instead of a foot of crappy yarn!"

It amazes me how little twist you can put into merino and have it stick together. It's beautiful stuff. I definitely want to spin more merino, now that I know what I'm doing.

Tomorrow I get to go to the Weaver's Cottage and see what new stuff to spin I can find! (I spun half a gallon bag and all that merino in, errr... 3 days. Pity me with your sarcastic pity!)


Welcome to Oak-and-Sage's notebook. Here you will find record of natural wonders, procedures for making various unusual things, and brief notes on what sorts of activities I am currently pursuing.

I am an amateur naturalist, kitchen chemist, and craftsperson from the foothills of the Transverse Range in southern California. I respect but do not always follow the scientific method; I try very hard to keep notes of my observations and projects, and I have always regretted it when I do not, so this is my attempt to record my observations online where they will be of some use to the world.

Some of the posts in here will refer to observations made in the distant past. I will attempt to place these posts at the appropriate past date and mark them as backdates. In such cases, the date may be approximate. I will attempt to refrain from using confusing language such as "last year" in such posts.

The photo with this post is a fire road in the mountains near Soledad Canyon Road, Canyon Country, CA. It was taken in December 2006; I have not visited this region since the October 2007 fires.